New financial aid rules could affect thousands

Joanna Williams

If finding a way to pay for WKU was hard before, new financial aid regulations may make it all the more difficult.

New federal financial aid regulations were passed July 1, which may leave students having to pay for school by themselves after a poor-performing semester.

Before the new regulations were passed, students receiving Pell Grants, PLUS loans and other federal aid had their academic progress measured after one academic year, said Cynthia Burnette, director of Student Financial Assistance.

Now, student progress is measured after one semester.

If a student receives less than a 2.0 after a semester, he or she falls into negative standing, Burnette said. After students are put into negative standing by the university, they are given a warning that financial aid could be taken away.

If grades are not brought up after the next semester, the student will lose aid and must pay for six credit hours on their own before he or she can apply for financial aid again.

“They can pursue private loans to meet the cost or other sources,” Burnette said.

 Since the regulations were passed in July, this is the first semester under the new standards, and no student aid has been lost yet.

“This is the first semester, so they won’t be denied,” Burnette said. “They won’t get anything taken away until the spring.”

Burnette estimated, based on last year’s numbers of students who fell into negative standing, that more than 2,000 students will be given a warning after this semester.

 Any student who fell into negative standing after the 2011 spring semester was notified over the summer. They are now being advised by the Academic Advising and Retention Center.

Carol Alicie, an academic advisor in the AARC, said it has been an adjustment because she and others in the center are now both advisors for grades and financial aid.

“We’ve been talking to students all summer about their academic plans and their goals for the future and what they need to do to stay in school and receive their aid,” she said.

AARC Director Kevin Thomas said it has been an adjustment for the center because the advising of exploratory studies students at the beginning of the year has been put off in favor of advising students could be affected by the financial aid.

“Right now we would typically meet with advisees by this time, but have had to hold off till they meet with students affected by the regulations,” he said.

Thomas said the AARC is still in the process of finding how to better handle the students better for the financial aid and find a process that works smoothly for the future.

Burnette said despite students being able to lose their aid more quickly, the department thinks it will be good motivation for students not working hard in school.

“From a financial aid standpoint, we think it’s good that students have to be more responsible while receiving aid,” Burnette said. “They are just going to have to be more academically responsible.”